Planner Spotlight: Paul Knowles 

Current Position: Park Planning and Real Estate Coordinator
Total years in planning: 8
Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, landscaping, playing in a band, microbrew tasting.
Hometown: Marysville, WA
Favorite Places: Manito Park-Cannon Hill Park Neighborhood (Spokane), Pasayten Wilderness, Anacortes and Bellingham (City, Location and Park System).

Why did you choose a career in planning? I’m one of those people that’s interested and curious in just about everything. I blame my father, who is a retired high school teacher and made every trip an educational opportunity. When I read an online description about planning years ago, I thought to myself, “This is the field that encompasses so many of my interests—history, geography, geology, economics, architecture, design, politics, writing and most importantly, I can make a difference?! I’m in!” 

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? I love this region’s people, landscapes, coffee, beer and tap water. Nothing will make you appreciate our coffee and beer more than traveling abroad in the tropics for months.

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on? Right now, I’m working on purchasing a 900-acre tract of land that will connect Liberty Lake Regional Park with Mica Peak Conservation Area, creating an over 5,000-acre block of county-owned public land. In that same area, I just wrapped up developing a grant-funded Non-Motorized Recreation Plan for Mica Peak Conservation Area that involved the major stakeholders in the area from Washington Trails Association to Evergreen East MBA and the Inland Empire Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen as well as adjacent landowners. When the State Capital Budgets gets adopted, I’ll be embarking on the second phase of this project— the grant-funded implementation of the plan—a combination of new trail development, road decommissioning, and habitat restoration.

What was your first planning related job? As a planning intern under Bill Grimes and Chaz Bates of Studio Cascade here in Spokane. I’ve recently had the pleasure of working again with Bill Grimes (as part of a consulting team) to develop a master plan for Liberty Lake Regional Park.

What advice would you give a new planner? Think big before narrowing down. Ask yourself, “How could this project reap the most benefit for your community? Who are all of the potential stakeholders? Who has experience in this type of project? Are there successful past projects you can lean on? And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and cold call someone. 99.99% of the time, you’ll be glad you made that call.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? Public funding, particularly for counties, is an ongoing challenge that may significantly impact your projects. Also, email communication can’t replace or replicate the benefits of direct phone or in-person communication.

If you were not a planner what profession would you likely be in? Brewer or Marine Biologist.

Do you have any favorite websites/tools/blogs that relate to planning or your job that you’d like to share? Washington State’s Recreation and Conservation Office is a great website showcasing park, trail, and habitat-related projects funded throughout the state. It’s also great if you’re feeling down about the world and need to know that there are good things happening right now. Also, Google Earth—for enhanced power point presentations and satisfying your everyday curiosity about a place.

Return to the September/October issue of The Washington Planner